June 2017 BySaraswathi Vasudevan Sitali pranayama counters fatigue, satiates hunger and thirst, confers strength and vitality and helps you experience oneness, says Saraswathi Vasudevan Summer provides a welcome respite from frenzied activity - the heat simply slows you down by sapping your energy and dulling the mind! Ayurveda even allows for an afternoon nap, which is a taboo for other times of the year. While gyms and sports camps are offering summer discounts, please note, that we have to reduce physical activity during summer to protect the system from weakening. The ancient yogis switched to lighter, easier to digest foods and cut down physical activity; they also practised methods to cool down the system and strengthen the digestive fire. For us, today, the slightest inconvenience is difficult to accept and adapt. “Tato dvandva anabhighatah” (Yoga Sutra 2.47), this essentially means that the more I begin to understand my body, the more my rajasic tendencies come down and I develop more tolerance. Then, I can adapt comfortably to changing conditions without losing my cool! On the contrary, sometimes asana practise becomes self-indulgent, making us intolerant towards anything that affects our personal comfort. This intolerance impacts our individual and collective psyche. The only way to develop tolerance in asana is by using the breath wisely. The breath in asana practice can churn out not only the toxins in the system, but also restlessness, distractions and frustrations from the mind, allowing it to settle down for a good pranayama practice to follow. Therefore, use asana intelligently – not to separate ourselves from the world, but to see more clearly that we are made up of the same five elements and prana that the rest of life forms are! When we experience the oneness, we become more tolerant or vice versa! The cooling breath The ancient yogis advised Sitali pranayamato counter fatigue caused by heat. It is a simple technique that can even be taught to children who will enjoy the straw breathing. And, what’s more, just by breathing you can quench your hunger and thirst! Please sip some water before this practice. Sit in a comfortable posture with erect spine, chin down, eyes closed. Take a few breaths before you start the practice. Fold the sides of the tongue up to resemble the beak of a bird, extended a little out, held by the lips. Start inhaling through the gap as you raise your head and straighten your spine further extending the neck. After you complete the inhalation, open your mouth, fold the tongue back, close your mouth and bring your chin down. Start exhaling with the chin down position focussing on the throat feeling a gentle sensation from the base of the throat to the sternum (Ujjayi). Complete the exhalation, pause for two seconds, fold the tongue, inhale raising the head, continue for 12 – 24 breaths. Feel the cool breath quenching your thirst. For those unable to curl the tongue, Sitkari, an alternative is given: With a small gap between the rows of teeth, hold tongue between the teeth and inhale with a gentle hissing sound as your raise your head up. Rest of the technique is same as Sitali. Sitali, according to the text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, is supposed to destroy diseases of abdomen and spleen. It destroys hunger and thirst and removes bad effects of poisons. Sitkari is believed to confer great strength and vitality, freedom from somnolence and indolence. The text even says that a person practising Sitali, can become beautiful and highly sought after! These techniques help quench thirst and reduce hunger at a practical level. If there is excessive heat in the body, acidity etc, Sitali/Sitkari are excellent techniques to cool the system. Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapisttrainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya.She specialises in adapting yogato the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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